The school board cast what appears to be its final vote on the controversial decision to outsource the district’s custodial and groundskeeping services Tuesday night, voting 6-2 to approve a five-year contract with GCA Services Group.
The Cleveland, Ohio-based company is now poised to begin working inside Metro schools as early as July. Director of Schools Jesse Register has said current school custodians and groundskeepers would have first dibs in retaining their current positions. Some 500 of the district’s more than 600 custodians have already re-applied for their jobs.
Board members Karen Johnson and Ed Kindall voted against approving the contract, with Sharon Gentry abstaining.
The board had already approved Register’s $633.3 million budget, which includes outsourcing as a way to free up money during a cash-strapped year while protecting the jobs of teachers. The board had also agreed to enter into a contract with GCA.
Last night’s vote simply approved the parameters set out in the contractual agreement, establishing, most notably, the health benefits package and 401(k) plan for GCA custodians. According to the contract, the performance of GCA will be under regular review by Metro Nashville Public Schools and the board.
The schools budget will become official only when Metro Council approves Mayor Karl Dean’s $1.52 billion budget. The council is set to consider Metro’s budget on third reading at its June 15 meeting.
The board’s most recent vote came after Johnson, a critic of the privatization plan, asked that another vote be recorded on the outsourcing decision.
“I just feel that there are going to be long-term ramifications,” Johnson said. “My biggest concern is the detriment to morale because I think all of us are on the same team. It takes everyone being enthusiastic about MNPS for us to be able to achieve the vision and goals that we’re seeking to accomplish.”